My wife and I were returning to Duluth on Sunday after dropping off our son for his first year of college. We returned the same way most of us do from downstate, on I-35, coming in over Thompson Hill.

We arrived about 7 p.m. on a beautiful late-August afternoon. The sun was slanting low from over the hill. Before us and below us stretched the St. Louis River estuary and western Lake Superior gleaming blue and beautiful. The Bong Bridge snaked across the river in a graceful arc in the foreground, the Blatnik Bridge in the distance. Duluth itself clung to the hillside, while the city of Superior lay low and flat across the river.

The whole scene made me feel as if I were looking at a Google Earth image of the Twin Ports, as if I were a red-tailed hawk soaring over the estuary. It was a cool moment.

I’ve heard many people talk about returning to Duluth and seeing that same scene unfold from Thompson Hill. Especially if they grew up here and have moved away, that homecoming re-entry as they come over the hill into Duluth can be an emotional moment.